Meet the Chef Series: Linh Lee, Owner of Capital City BBQ
Michigan Premier Events is featuring Chef's around Michigan!
Chefs in Michigan talk on their philosophies, methods and the passion behind their culinary talents. Each month Michigan Premier Events features some of Michigan's best chefs about their food, philosophy, inspiration and plans for the future. Meet Linh Lee owner of Capital City BBQ in Lansing, Michigan on how she started cooking at 8 years old and now owns a successful restaurant that was featured on the Food Network.
Tell us a little about yourself
My name is Linh. I was born and raised in Vietnam by my grandmother. I am the owner of Capital City BBQ in Lansing, Michigan.
When did you decide to become a chef/get into the food industry?
I had no choice, that was my role as one of the elder siblings. In Vietnamese culture the older siblings have certain duties they are responsible for, so I started cooking when I was eight years old. Over the years I came to love cooking because it has given me a way to introduce my culture to the world. I work to be better at it every day. It is a lifelong journey for me.
How do you maintain your love of cooking after working long hours?
It’s my passion. I love what I do cooking. It is a dream come true for me having my restaurant. It doesn’t matter how long I work, seeing the smile on customers faces bring me such satisfaction and joy. It makes the long hours’ worth it.
How do you inspire creativity in your kitchen team?
When my team and I are together, it is our time to learn, and have fun doing the work we do. My goal is to create opportunities for my team to succeed. We are a family. I make it a point of creating teaching moments when we work together and we exchange ideas and work together to create great food and a wonderful atmosphere that people will want to be a part of.
What cuisine do you most enjoy cooking and why?
I love creating Vietnamese dishes. It brings back so many wonderful childhood memories of me at home in Vietnam. Cooking these dishes for my customers allows me to introduce them to who I am and share my culture with them.
Tell me about your culinary education and training
I do not have any formal culinary training, but I had the best teacher in the world – my grandmother. She was a great cook and teacher. She was very strict in how she taught me to cook. Things had to be done the right way. She respected our heritage and culture and did not want me to look at what I was doing as simply “cooking”, but I was sharing my life, history, and Vietnamese culture. She taught me to focus and that is why I am a great cook today. I’m so glad that I have her with me still in the dishes I cook for my customers.
What is your signature dish? What do people love about it?
Bánh Mì is one of my signature sandwiches and my grandma’s secret marinate. Customers love the way the meat is cooked and the signature sauce. There is nothing like it. It is a secret sauce that she taught me. It is a very savory sandwich, nestled in fresh jalapenos, cucumbers, cilantro, carrots, onions, Sriracha mayonnaise on a toasted French baguette. It is simply a great sandwich!
What is your process to create a new signature dish?
I revisit my passion – which is satisfying the wants and needs of my customers. I don’t just cook I make it a point of staying connected to my customers and talking to them about what they like and what they would like to see that is new. This feedback gives me great ideas on dishes to create for the menu.
Name the three kitchen tools you can’t do without?
Chef’s knives, thermometers and measuring cups. These are my most important tools!
What are your favorite foods to cook?
Pho, it is the most traditional dish in my country that everyone loves and can have all seasons. It is versatile and can be made a lot of different ways. It’s made with healthy ingredients: broth, noodles, beef (or other protein) and lots of mix-and-match toppings.
How do you describe your overall cooking philosophy?
My cooking philosophy is centered around using fresh, traditional ingredients that remind me of my childhood and homeland.
What chef’s do you follow on social media (or admire their work and career in general) Explain why?
My favorite chef on the Food network is Guy Fieri. He can make anyone hungry with his cooking and presentation. I love how he has his own style of doing what he loves – cooking food.
What do you do when you are not working? What are your favorite hobbies?
I like to be in natural setting - sunsets and beaches. I like to spend time with my friends and family.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot in Pure Michigan?
Traverse City, it’s the most beautiful city in Michigan. Watch the sunset at the beaches make me feel like I am in heaven. It is so relaxing and peaceful.
What are your plans for the future?
My plans are to continue what I’m doing with my restaurant. For the future I am looking forward to traveling around the world and learning different cultures and cuisine so I can use what I learn to incorporate it into the menu at my restaurant.
To learn more about Capital City BBQ, visit: